Cities and towns
Last Update: 08 March 2016
In Europe, around 75% of the population lives in urban areas and this is projected to increase. Climate change has the potential to influence almost all components of the urban environment and raises new, complex challenges. Thereby, climate change impacts on cities as hubs of Europe's economic activity, social life and culture, innovation and knowledge-creation have repercussions far beyond the city borders. As a city specific action of the EU Adaptation Strategy, the European Commission has initiated "Mayors Adapt" to foster urban adaptation on the city level and that is...
now intergrated into the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.
Some cities will experience droughts and increased temperatures. Others will experience floods or extreme weather events. Climate change will affect many aspects of urban living from air quality to energy consumption patterns to provision of essential services. Poor urban design can aggravate the impacts of climate change. For example, soil sealing — the covering of soil for housing, roads and car parks etc. — increases the absorption of energy from the sun and leads to higher urban temperatures (the so-called 'urban heat island effect'). The impermeability of the sealed areas reduces natural drainage and increases water run-off, which, particularly during heavy rains, can lead to urban floods. However, urban design aimed at tackling climate change, for example through boosting green infrastructure, could have numerous co-benefits, including improved air quality, support for biodiversity and enhanced quality of life.
Although cities are not a policy area for which the European Commission has a specific responsibility, the Commission and other international organisations pay increasing attention to the specific climate vulnerabilities of urban areas:
- Mayors Adapt - the Covenant of Mayors Initiative on Climate Change Adaptation has been set up by the European Commission to engage cities in taking action to adapt to climate change. It has also developed a web-based Urban Adaptation Support Tool to aid adaptation practitioners in urban municipalities to plan and implement their adaptation actions and provide easy access to information and knowledge resources specifically designed for urban conditions. More than 100 cities across the EU have signed up to this initiative already.
- At least 20% of the entire European Union budget 2014-2020 is foreseen for climate-related projects, including both mitigation and adaptation. In particular relevant for climate change adaptation in cities are:
- the LIFE + programme 2014-2020 that will support projects in the development of innovative ways to respond to the challenges of climate change in Europe by integrating adaptation into urban land use planning, building layouts and natural resources' management are priorities for cities.
- the European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) offer ample opportunities for supporting interventions in urban areas. Climate change adaptation is one of the priorities of the ERDF, and the fund additionally foresees that a minimum of 5% of the resources of the Partnership Agreements shall be allocated at the national level to sustainable urban development.
- The European Investment Bank (EIB) offers support via the JESSICA programme.
- The Resilient Cities ‘Open European Day' annual event organised by EEA and ICLEI Europe presents an opportunity to share experiences, learn from others and discuss solutions.
- The Making Cities Resilient campaign of United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) addresses issues of local governance and urban disaster risk management, also relevant for climate change adaptation.
- The European Environmental Agency (EEA) report Urban adaptation to climate change in Europe provides information on the vulnerability of Europe's cities and the opportunities to meet the challenges.
- There are various city networks and associations that provide support with adaptation.